An Old Man's Meddling

(One Shot)

By Lady Lestrange

Disclaimer: The Harry Potter characters and previous situations belong to JK Rowlings. No infringement is meant or implied. No money is made from this Fanfic. -THANKS JK.

A Severitus fic. Post HBP. --Lady Lestrange

It was September first, and Harry had just left his office. The slam of the door still echoed in his ears. The proffered lemon drops were still in his hand. Albus chose one and dropped it into his tea. He forced himself to quiet contemplation. You would think it would get easier after one hundred fifty years, but as always, following a visit by the boy- who-lived, Albus Dumbledore felt exceedingly old. Still, he was determined to see that Harry would be the boy-who-lived-just-a-little-bit-longer, not matter what it cost. Albus pulled yet another tortured thought from his head and placed it in the pensieve. Fawkes trilled nearby as if to tell him, yes, this manipulation was necessary to save lives, to win the war. There were things Harry could not know. This thought, that dangled from Albus' wand, he had legilmized from Harry, the boy-who-surely-had-more-than-his-share-of-pain in his life. Albus Dumbledore knew about pain. He had gone through enough in his life: losing his daughter; losing his wife. Surely killing one Dark Wizard in the course of one's life should be enough. Albus rubbed his hand over the sore welts along his hairline that delineated thoughts not his own…too many thoughts not his own: Harry, Severus, Virgina, Alaster, Sirius, Lily. Sirius and Lily were both dead, but their memories lived on. Sometimes he thought legilmency came with its own curse. Well, there was no help for it. It was all for the Greater Good after all. Some dark curiosity made Albus look at the memory he had just taken from Harry.

It was the beginning of summer after the horrible battle at the Ministry. Harry had just arrived home with the Dursley's after the events of the Ministry. His uncle was being his usual arsehole self. Yes, Albus was quite aware that Harry was mistreated with the Muggles, and yet, they had been spelled not to cause any real physical harm, and Harry had been ensorcelled not to hate them. It wasn't hard. After all, they were his family and children had for generation's endured abuse and lived and actually loved their abusers. It was regrettable but important that no one in the wizarding world seem to be related by blood to Harry Potter. That could only bring more pain on all of his family. It was better for one little boy to suffer for a while than to live for one hundred odd years with the burden of grief that forever plagued Albus. Yes, Harry Potter was better off with his Muggle relatives than his wizarding ones, but something unforeseen had happened this summer. Albus frowned at the memory in the pensieve as Vernon smacked Harry with his open palm. Harry seemed to snap. Perhaps it was because he had forgotten to renew the love sorcery or perhaps it was just that his godfather's death was too near. Albus had tried to forget how the pain of grief inflicted itself deep within the soul. He knew well what the child felt.

"I don't care how late it is, you will do your chores now or you will go back to the cupboard, boy," raged Vernon. "I don't want to hear any thing about your freaky friends, and get that glum look off of your face. You looked like someone died!"

Albus felt the words smack him hard as a reducto curse, and something broke inside of him: Sirius.

"Someone did die," hissed Harry.

"Good, one less freak in the world," said Vernon in a matter of fact tone.

Harry launched himself at the Muggle, screaming and clawing at the man. For just a moment the sheer rage reminded Albus of Tom Riddle himself, but Harry could never go that path, not when he knew he would be accepted no matter what.

Harry was out of control, screaming, "You horrible son of a bitch! Bastard! Bastard! I wish you would just drop dead." Glass exploded all around them in a spectacular display of accidental magic, but fortunately Harry didn't really wish the muggle dead or Albus was quite sure the shards of glass would have found some vulnerable mark.

Vernon disengaged Harry's hand quite easily from his person, and shook him. The accidental magic stopped as Vernon spoke, the words dripping with venom. "I am not the bastard, you freak. You are. Your worthless mother got pregnant with some freakish bat. She had to get married. Do you hear me? She was pregnant! And the slut didn't even marry the man who shagged her!"

Harry reacted like he was struck. "No! Not my mother. My mother was…My dad was …a hero."

"Well maybe he was in her eyes," said Petunia lightly. "After all, he did save her from ridicule and gave you a name."

"Then who?" whispered Harry. "Who was my father? Everyone says I look just like my father…" Even as he said it Harry knew that his looks …what he always thought he was…was a sham. Potions. Charms. Enchantments. Transfigurations. There were so many ways to change a face.

Petunia shrugged. "Probably more of that freakish magic. Apparently, he couldn't claim you. Something about being a spy in this wizards' war."

Harry choked but managed to say with careful politeness, "I need to take my things to my room."

"You will come right back down here and clean up this mess," shouted Vernon as he indicated the shattered glass.

Once he got to his room, Harry flopped on his bed. There was only one spy in the wizards' war that he knew about: Snape. It couldn't be. The man hated him. No one could hate their own son so much, and Snape hated Sirius: Sirius, his godfather who was dead. Harry put his face in his hands and sobbed. The grief of Sirius' death washed over him again like a drowning wave.

Albus sighed it was always hard to decide where to set the obliviate, and Harry was getting harder and harder to deceive. Soon he would be as impossible as his father. At least for Harry, the calming draught in the lemon drops was still useful. Severus wouldn't touch the things.

Albus hoped Harry would soon defeat the Dark Lord Voldemort and he would be done with the subterfuge. He was getting too old to hold these memories, even with the pensieve. One day, he would give them all back to their owners. One day soon when Voldemort was dead. Fawkes flew down beside him, her trilling voice a balm to the old wizard's tortured psyche.

The floo burned brightly as a tall dark wizard stepped through the fireplace, his face a mask of fury. "Albus! This time Potter has gone too far," snapped Severus.

Albus looked into Severus' shining dark eyes, so like his mothers': dark eyes and dark hair. Only his long crooked nose was like his fathers', and his long fingers and perhaps his stubbornness, Albus thought with the ghost of a smile.

"It is not funny," growled Severus. "That Potter brat deserves to be expelled. He is just like his father--arrogant.. .stubborn… "

"Indeed. What has he done now, Severus?" interrupted Dumbledore with calm decorum. He reached for his box of lemon sherbets.

"He says I must have raped his mother! The miserable little shite! He claims his uncle told him that he was my child! Can you imagine the audacity?" Severus paced, looking nothing so much as like a great black bat, the robes billowing behind him in his anger. Rage was pouring off of him in waves.

"I can imagine," said Albus still unruffled.

"Well, what are you going to do?" Severus demanded, glaring at the headmaster.

"What shall I do? The only thing I can do," said Albus. "The same thing I did to him: Obliviate."

Severus blinked at him for a moment and then Albus prompted, "I know Tom is getting harder and harder to keep out of your mind, Severus, but we can only hope that Harry can end it soon." The words tore at Albus' heart. They weren't lies exactly, but it galled him to be unable to tell Severus the truth. Trying to balance his family and his sense of right was almost impossible, but try as he may, he could think of no other way.

"Yes," said Severus uncertainly. "I suppose you are right, Albus."

"Lemon drop?" offered Albus.

Severus snorted. "No. No. You know I hate those things, aside from the fact that I brewed the calming draught in them," hissed Severus.

"Severus, I will have your Unbreakable Vow."

"For what? For Potter? Isn't my word good enough any more?" The potions master snorted. "I expected such a thing from Narcissa, but not from you Albus."

"Harry is more important than I am. You are more important, Severus."

"Don't be ridiculous! No one can replace you at this school Albus. You are an icon."

He shook his head. "I will have your Vow." They had argued the fact before, several times in fact, since Albus had heard what promise Narcissa had put to him. Knowing that, Albus wasn't going to let Severus go without his promise. The door sealed with Albus' wave of his hand.

"Albus, let me out!" Severus snapped.

"Your Vow."

"Very well," growled Severus. It wasn't the first time he was locked in the office until Albus got his way. Severus knew from experience he wasn't getting out until he capitulated. "Let's hope it doesn't come to that." Severus sliced his hand and let the blood flow, watching the red well up on his palm just as it had for Draco just a few days ago. "You know I would protect him regardless," Severus protested. "He is the bloody boy-who-lived, Savior of the Wizarding world."

"Not if it were a choice between me and him," said Albus, "You would hesitate, and it has to be him, Severus Soon, it's going to come to that."

"Sybil making predictions again?" sneered Snape as the blood dried.

"Try not to be so cynical," Albus admonished. "It doesn't suit you."

"It suits me fine," Severus sighed and after wiping the remains of the blood on a white handkerchief he tucked it into his robes and looked at the door. "May I return to my dungeons now?"

"Have you learned any more of the Horcruxes?" asked Albus.

"The one I told you about is immersed in a potion. I don't know how to get it and I don't have the antidote yet, but I do have the formula now. You should wait until I am sure what you should do and I can give you an antidote--if there is one."

"Time is one luxury we do not have, Severus. Work on the antidote while I am gone. What of the other horcruxes? Are we certain the last one is Nagini?"

Severus shook his head. "He is very closed mouthed. I don't think he has actually placed the seventh one. He has considered Nagini at numerous times, but doesn't have a suitable sacrifice."

Albus frowned. "What does he want?"

"You," Snape answered simply, and Albus nodded. That makes sense. "You mustn't let that happen. You mustn't let Him have me."

"As if I could stop it," Snape snorted.

"You made an Unbreakable Vow," Albus reminded him, "If it comes to that--I cannot be the means for him to break off yet another piece of his soul. I want you to kill me before that happens."

Severus snorted.

"I am deadly serious," said Albus. "This part is my responsibility," he said pulling off his glove and rubbing his ruined hand.

Haven't you done enough, Albus? It's not your fault he has become the most vicious Dark Lord in centuries, Albus. You can't take on the woes of the world."

"Of course it is," said Albus. "I was his teacher. I should have seen this coming. There were so many signs." Albus grew silent thinking of the young Tom he had met in the orphanage. He had had so much potential.

"You are not infallible," Severus reminded him. "You are still human. You make mistakes."

"Yes," said Albus, wondering if he had made a mistake all those years ago, separating his grandchild and great grandchild. Perhaps they would have been stronger together, but now there was no help for it. In a moment of weakness, Albus spoke. "I should tell you,--" He paused uncertain.

"Tell me what?" asked Severus with a frown.

"About Harry--"

Severus sneered.

"Never mind," said Albus. "There will be time--later" Albus waved a hand, releasing the locks on the door. "I hope--" he whispered in a barely audible voice.

Albus watched as his boy turned and headed back towards the dungeon and he prayed there would be time for all of them--time for the truth--but time had run out. Last week when Sybil had predicted his own downfall would precede Voldemort's demise, he knew that he had to take additional safeguards. Three predictions, and now, it seemed she would have no more. The poor woman had begun to drink heavily even though she did not remember the details of what she told the Headmaster. Although she loved to prattle on about dire circumstances, it seemed that she was determined to thwart any more genuine predictions of doom by drowning her inner eye with alcohol. Sometimes he didn't blame her. After all, what was he doing but hiding his memories in a pensieve?

He looked again at the memory of young Tom, trying to discern exactly where the cave was where the horcrux might be found. He paused as he heard footsteps outside of his chamber and moments later, Harry had rushed into his room, accusing the Malfoy boy of gleeful celebration in the Room of Requirement. He accused Severus of telling Voldemort the prophecy. He accused Severus of being responsible for killing his parents. If only he could tell the boy the truth. Perhaps on the journey to find the horcrux there would be some way to make him understand why he trusted Severus. Perhaps--but now, there was no time.

0 +

After Harry left to get his Invisibility Cloak, the Headmaster put his head on his desk. There was no twinkle in his eye now. He wished things could have been different. He wished he could have saved them all, but it was too much for any one wizard to do. That last memory of Harry's he would not save in the pensieve. Severus did not need to be called a rapist, or a murderer, and the thought was already removed from Harry's mind. Albus knew it wasn't true. He knew because in his own pensieve were the memories that proved Severus and Lily's love for each other, but he couldn't let Severus see that now either. It bothered him sometimes that Severus could hold so few good memories, but there was no other way. Not now, not while Tom still had access to Severus' mind.

They had agreed on this course after Tom had killed Severus' mother. Obliviation was the only way, but it bothered him that Severus had so few good memories to hold. Albus knew it bothered Severus too. It had left Severus fragmented in ways that could only be understood by Albus himself, because only he knew the truth. There were too many secrets that had to remain secret. . Secrets like this one: With a certain bittersweet sadness, Albus drew the old memory from the pensieve. It was a memory that always brought him peace and helped him to realize that all the meddling was for the greater good after all.

It was summer and Albus was sitting holding his grandson on his lap. The dark haired boy had pulled the lemon drop out of his mouth scrutinized it with piercing black eyes and then put it back into his mouth. He loved the candy. It was one of the many things Albus shared with his grandson before so many things went wrong. The boy wrapped his sticky fingers around Albus prematurely white hair and pulled his grandfather close, white hair mingling with a fine curtain of dark hair, so like his mothers' and his grandmothers'. Albus' breath caught remembering the feel of those arm around him. Too many have died, thought Albus as a tear escaped his twinkling blue eyes. I will protect him at all costs. He will live to see Tom in the grave. I will do whatever I have to do to make that happen. The memory was ending, as the grandfather pressed a kiss on the little boy's forehead and whispered words of love and protection. He knew he would die for this child.

Albus pulled himself from the pensieve, and out into the real world, wishing that he could press a kiss to the man's forehead as he had done to the child, wishing there was a spell of protection that would guard his grandson from Voldemort's tortures or this damned war.

Behind him the boy in the pensieve whispered words the adult never said, "I love you, Grandfather." and the dark eyes followed him missing nothing--missing everything.

Albus smiled. "I love you too, Severus," he said in a soft whisper. "And Harry . . .Our Harry, we need you to grow up too soon. Forgive me, Harry and Severus. Forgive an old man's meddling. There is no help for it."

Silently he placed one last memory, in case he didn't return from the hunt for the horcrux. He placed a memory of love between father and son, a memory of love between grandfather and grandson and great grandson. It would have to be enough. Then, he called his phoenix. Fawkes trilled comfortingly. "You know what you must do, Fawkes," he said stroking the bright plumage. If I am killed, you must remain, and guard this pensieve until Tom is dead. Only then can Severus and Harry know the truth."

In a flash of fire, Fawkes and the pensieve was gone. Albus took one last look around his office, put a handful of lemon drops in his pocket, and exited the narrow door between the gargoyles.

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